The Love Song of A. Jerome Minkoff

The Love Song of A. Jerome Minkoff is another wonderful collection of short stories by Chicago writer, Joseph Epstein. Epstein's brilliance lies in creating everyday characters as they go about life's joys and tribulations. He writes with great wit, and he is able to evoke both laughter and tears.

The title story is a satire whose protagonist mirrors J. Alfred Prufrock (T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, 1917). In it, we find an equally reserved protagonist-- a widower and doctor. He meets Larissa Friedman at a charitable function. She is the widow of the "sock baron" to Nike, and pops into the doctor's life much as the wealthy women "come and go talking of Michelangelo" in the T.S. Eliot poem (lines 13-14 ). All of them are vacuous and serve as foils to the main character.

As he begins an affair with Larissa, Dr. Minkoff does not have time "to wonder 'Do I dare?' and, 'Do I dare?' (line 38)." When she visits him in Chicago, he is swept up in a week of sex, dinner at trendy restaurants , and symphony and theater dates every evening. Likewise, in Brentwood, Los Angeles, Dr. Minkoff and Larissa have dinner at a restaurant of the super rich. He is shocked by the $680 bill. "People lie and cheat and even kill for money," Dr. Minkoff explains to Larissa once they are back at her home. This being so, I've always felt that the least I can do is respect it. Spending that kind of money for a meal isn't, in my opinion, respecting it (p. 7)."

Some of the best stories in this collection portray average guys, who, through marriage or hard work, become wealthy. Such stories are "You Could Also Love a Rich Girl" and "Under New Management." The reader truly empathizes with these men who sadly discover that wealth is not what it seems. In "Janet Natalsky and the Life of Art," "Gladrags & Kicks," and "My Brother Eli," Epstein satirizes those who pursue the arts at the expense of everything else. But he does so in a kind way, showing the reader the price of such a sacrifice.

If you loved Fabulous Small Jews, you will equally enjoy this collection highlighting middle class, intellectual Jews living in Chicago. Each story is a gem. I read them slowly, enjoying the writing and not wanting the book to end.

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